Adjusting to Village Life ...

Recently there was a thread on a Thailand forum about the difficulties of adjusting to village life in Thailand.  For some it was not easy but doable.  For others it seems, it was something verging on the impossible.  It struck me that some of those who suffered the most had no chance from the very beginning.  If you start off by scraping the bottom of the social barrel to find a partner and then proceed to try living among the poorest of the poor in a remote rural location...well I think you can start to see where that might lead.  That scenario would hardly be possible for the vast majority of big city Thais, let alone a foreigner.

It would surely take a different sort of “farang animal” to go all “National Geographic” and live a primitive existence devoid of all western amenities, comforts and conveniences.  Throw-in an inability to understand or talk to anyone and things can turn ugly and the bottom of a bottle can seem like the only way out.

Some suffer under the delusion that village life will be super cheap.  While fixed overhead is lower than in the city, startup costs to feather you nest and make life bearable can be a little pricy.  I had lived in Thailand long enough to know in advance what I would need to make the move to a village.  Perhaps not the same for everyone but something that needs to be dealt with honestly and well in advance.

For example, I knew I would need a dwelling much different from the typical village shack and at a reasonable distance from the standard noises, smells and hubbub of village life.  Other necessities included a good truck, motorcycle, mountain-bike, hiking shoes, camera and dogs.  In the house I needed air-conditioning and a bug-free environment.  Telephone, internet, the best computer I could afford, True Vision for western TV/News and some hobbies to exercise the body and the mind.

Keeping in mind that I speak Thai, communication is still less than satisfying with most of the villagers.  They for the most part do not speak Thai, only speaking their local country dialect and many are functionally illiterate.  Privacy, security, alcohol and debt are major problems and you have to have a plan for dealing with them.

If you get everything right it can be quite nice.  I have a Bangkok friend who argues how easy life is for him in the city.  He can catch a taxi to the Sky-train and go to this place for one thing and then to another place for something else.  I laugh and say, “That is not easy.”  Easy is sitting on the sofa, watching a movie you downloaded from the internet, on the big-screen TV, and your lovely wife brings you those very same things without lifting a finger.  Use technology and a couple of villagers to do the grunt work and go on a well planned shopping run once a week and easy-peasy you have time for fun and adventure.

Depending on your needs and where you live, finding companionship other than your wife, can be a struggle at first but over time usually works out.  I find the transient nature of expat relations in Thailand has hardened me to the fact that people come and go in ones life.  Each life-change is merely one more in a long list of changes over the years, that have mostly worked out for the best.  It is not for everyone but village life can be good.

So if you are dreaming of retiring to a village, do your homework.  Spend time there at different times of year.  Learn to speak the language and pray that your partner has your best interests in mind at all times.  If you can’t count on your partner, then all is lost before you begin.  Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, so plan carefully.  Dreaming the dream is one thing but living the dream is a very different animal.